Tag Archive | houseplants

Beloved Lilies

easter-lily-poisoning

Beloved plant is toxic to house pets

The rules for calculating Easter are rather complex. Easter Day falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon that falls on or after March 21, but the “full moon” referred to is not the real moon but a theoretical moon that doesn’t quite match the one in the sky. In 1928, the British House of Commons agreed to a bill fixing the date of Easter, subject to agreement by various Christian churches. Efforts to secure that agreement, however, have been going on ever since.

The name of “Easter” is generally believed to be derived from Eostre, the pagan goddess of dawn, though recent research suggests that Eostre may not have been a goddess at all but the name of a season, and the “goddess” was only a mistranslation by the Venerable Bede in the eighth century.

Easter Island in the Pacific was discovered by the Dutch sailor Jacob Roggeveen on Easter Day 1722.

The plant that we now call an Easter Lily was discovered in 1777 in the Ryukyu Islands of Japan. Interestingly, though, the white lily is mentioned in the Bible and has been a symbol of Christianity since its beginnings. To learn more about the lily: https://pwa.www.1800flowers.com/blog/floral-occasions-holidays/history-of-the-easter-lily/

If you’ve been gifted with an Easter lily and you have pets, you should know that the plant is poisonous. Though the plant presents a high rate of toxicity to cats who ingest it, many pet owners are not aware of the dangers posed by it. There are no documented cases of poisoning by Easter lily in dogs, but there is a definite possibility of effects such as gastrointestinal upset or internal obstruction if your dog eats a large amount of this plant. Most cases of ingestion of the Easter lily by canines will mean mild gastrointestinal upset simply because the digestive systems of dogs are not used to processing plant material, especially in large quantities. While considered as lethal to cats, the Easter lily is not toxic to dogs but this does not mean your canine companion should have free rein to ingest this plant. The Easter lily is known to be extremely toxic to the feline species. While this flower is not documented as poisonous to dogs, ingestion of the flower in large quantities may  lead to digestive discomfort.

Read more at: https://wagwalking.com/condition/easter-lily-poisoning

 

Repotting Hibiscus

Raise your hands: who put their hibiscus plant outdoors for the summer and now it’s looking pretty sick with dropping leaves all over your floor?

Leaves of hibiscus plant turning yellow

It is probably a case of too little water, but increasing your watering schedule is not going to help. A hibiscus grows quickly during the summer, and the increased root mass displaces the soil in the container. The water — as well as the fertilizer you probably applied religiously every two weeks — is traveling straight through rather than soaking in. You pour water in, see it come out through the drain holes, and naturally assume that the hibiscus has been watered and fed. Unfortunately, the soil around the roots remains dry, and the plant remains thirsty.

Knock the hibiscus out of its pot and take a look. Overcrowded roots signal that moving to a larger container is necessary. When repotting, score the root ball with a knife or pull through the roots with a hand cultivator and tease some away so that they will grow into the fresh medium. If you don’t, the roots will remain would tightly, occupying the center of the container, and you’ll have the same starved, thirsty plant — just in a larger pot.

Of course, no matter what you do, a hibiscus will probably sulk in the winter. It is a full-sun tropical plant, and the low light, short days, and low humidity that come with spending a Northern winter indoors are even more depressing for it than for us.

One further note that may fall under the horticultural truth-in-packaging principle: small potted hibiscus, frequently sold in the spring, appear to be dwarf plants covered with large flowers. Most, however, are treated with a growth retardant to keep them small. When the retardant wears off after a month or two, the 2-foot plant is on its way to becoming a 6-footer. This can be disconcerting to anyone who has not seen the same phenomenon occur in a teenage boy.

Home Alone

House-Plants-All-My-Favorite-Low-Maintance-House-Plants-5As the holidays are coming to an end, and the cold weather sets in, many of us are looking forward to getting away to warmer temperatures for a while. But, what about your houseplants while you’re gone?! Only a plant-savvy human being can give an assortment of houseplants the different amounts of water they’re likely to need while they are home alone. But it isn’t always easy to find a willing plant sitter, and it’s even harder to find one who not only means well but has houseplant skills (returning to find that two-thirds of one’s little green children have drowned is no better than finding them dried to a crisp). So if you must leave them unattended, the following steps should keep them alive — if not happy — for up to a month.

  1. One at a time, bring the plants into very bright light and check them over top to bottom for pests and diseases. Don’t forget to look under the leaves and against the stems where they enter the soil. Problems that are very small now can balloon in your absence, and since the plants will be grouped together, those problems are likely to spread. Any afflicted plants should be treated and, for good measure, kept quarantined in a room of their own while you’re gone.
  2. Decide on a water-delivery system, ideally one that is triggered by the plant itself. Like the overzealous friend, timer-driven waterers usually deliver more than the plants need. Garden-supply stores and catalogs sell an assortment of capillary mats and water wicks that are less likely to drown plants, or you can go the low-tech route and opt for just supplying humidity (put the plants in plastic dish tubs lined with deep layers of pebbles or styrofoam peanuts and shallow layers of water.
  3. Set up the system where the plants will stay cool and get only a small amount of light. The bathroom is probably the best place since it is usually both cool and dark, and is the room best protected against water damage. If the plants will all fit in the tub, plan to put them there. Don’t draw the shower curtain unless the room is very bright.
  4. Water everything thoroughly. Soak clay pots until saturated; bottom-water plants in plastic pots until soil at the surface is wet. Let excess water drain, then group plants closely but not tightly — there must be a bit of air circulation or they’ll all get fungus diseases.
  5. Speak to them lovingly and close the door. They’ll be fine.

Bringing Hibiscus Indoors

Over-wintering large, flowering tropical plants like Hibiscus rosa-sinensis is always a challenge. They never thrive in the living room the way they do outdoors. Leaves turn yellow and drop, flowers seldom appear. Assorted pests do appear — in droves. No wonder gardeners dream of exiling these shrubs to the basement, where they can be out of sight and out of mind until spring.

This kind of hibiscus never sleeps, however, and trying to store yours as though it were dormant may give you a rude awakening. If you want to try it anyway, keep the plants cool, 45º to 50ºF. Expect them to drop all their leaves. They will likely get bugs. And they will still need to be brought into light well before summer planting time.

A better choice is a room that gets lots of light and is cool enough to slow growth, 60º to 65º. If you must put hibiscus plants in the living room, keep them in the sunniest place, away from direct heat and far enough from the window so they don’t suffer big temperature swings from night to day. There is no point in misting, but if you don’t have a humidifier this would be a good excuse to get one. Keep the soil barely but consistently moist, and don’t feed unless flowers appear. Watch out for aphids, whiteflies, and red spider mites. If you see them, treat promptly with insecticidal soap.

Hibiscus is tough. The plants will not be glorious inside, but they will survive. Cut them back in late April, removing leggy branches and working to create a pleasing shape. New growth should start almost at once. It is tempting to set the plants out as soon as the danger of frost is past, but hibiscus is a heat lover that will be happier inside until it is warm out day and night — late May or early June.

Alternatively, treat hibiscus as an annual indulgence. While they are still beautiful, give your plants to somebody with big windows and no qualms about getting rid of ailing ornamentals. Enjoy a carefree winter, and get new ones next year.

Houseplant Survival Guide

by Diana Alfuth, horticulture educator for Pierce and St. Croix counties UW-Extension

Houseplants-GettyImages-72195187-59d3a98b519de20012d7af62January and February are probably your houseplants’ worst months. While we northern Wisconsinites dream of a winter vacation in warm, sunny places, your houseplants can only sit and wait for better conditions to come to them. Winter’s short days, low light levels, and dry air are hard on houseplants. And, by now your plants’ leaves may have accumulated dust and your windows may be in need of washing. Dirty windows block even more light.

To help your plants make it through their worst winter months, inspect and treat plants for any insects, such as mealybugs, scale, or aphids that may have appeared. Clean off any accumulated dust by wiping each individual leaf with a damp cloth or giving them a shower. Small plants can be washed in the kitchen sink with a sink sprayer. Large plants can go in your shower. I recommend covering the soil surface with aluminum foil to prevent the potting mix from splashing out or getting waterlogged.

Next, wash your windows inside and out. Even though it’s cold outside, when the sun hits the window you can wash the outside without your cleaning solution freezing.

If your plants are looking stressed with sparse or light-colored foliage, try adding supplemental light. Even a table lamp with a fluorescent bulb above the plant can add extra light to get your plant through winter in better shape.

Normally, you do not want to fertilize houseplants from October through January because with low light levels, plants will not be growing. Fertilizers can build up in the soil and damage roots, or they can force plants into spindly, weak growth. But by the end of February, with the days getting longer and the sun getting higher and stronger, pinch back leggy growth and give your plants their first fertilizer of the year to help them put on new, vigorous growth.

Aloe Vera: First Aid in your Kitchen

wikihow1-e1449629575242One of the easiest and most helpful houseplants to grow: aloe vera. It is also known as Barbados aloe because it is widely grown on that island, even thought it is believed to be native to the Mediterranean and South Africa. In warm climates, the plants grow outdoors and reach immense sizes.

The plant’s fleshy, somewhat spiny leaves contain rows of enlarged cells that are filled with a translucent yellow mucus. As early as the first century A.D., the Greek physician Dioscorides wrote of the benefit of using this substance as a healing herb for burns. The practice, which continues to this day, entails snapping off one of the spiky-looking leaves, slicing it down the middle with a fingernail, 7049539727_326b3dc25a_band spreading its gelatinous interior over the burned skin. [Personal story: I severely burned my lips last summer while using lip balm without SPF protection. Knowing of aloe’s properties, I used the gel on my lips. NEVER, EVER do that — it’s absolutely the worst tasting thing I’ve ever had the displeasure to encounter and it took forever to get it out of my tastebuds. I don’t even know if the healing properties worked because I was too busy trying to rid myself of the awful taste!]

This sculptural-looking, easily grown plant prefers full sun but also tolerates as much as a half day of shade. Since the plant is a succulent, designed to withstand dry conditions, watering should be on the spare side, particularly through the winter, and well-drained soil is essential. Small aloe plants are frequently available at garden shops as well as dime stores, florists, and some supermarkets.

Happy Indoor Bloomers

What triggers bloom in houseplants? Plants bloom if they get good care — the right light, temperature, water, food, and growing medium — but the details depend on the particular species. If you can get one African violet to bloom, you’ll be successful with any of them. But if you treat your kalanchoe the same way, it will probably never flower.

The goal is to provide an environment that’s as close as possible to conditions in the plant’s native home. Some plants, for instance, have learned to face adversity — periods of cold or dry — by going dormant for a while. For many, going through this dormant period is required to trigger blooming. In the wild, plants recognize when to go dormant by being sensitive to shorter days, lower temperatures, or reduced rainfall.

In a house, dormancy is induced naturally by shorter days, or by your withholding water or putting the plant in a cooler spot. Growth slows, and the plant needs less fertilizer and water. When days lengthen and become warmer, or you resume more generous watering, you complete the cycle and flowering begins.

Other plants come from environments where light, temperature, and rainfall are about the same all year. Those plants can grow and flower anytime, so they rarely need a dormant period to induce flowering. Since they are always growing, the amount of light, fertilizer, and water you give them throughout the year remain constant. The amounts depend on the species.

PelargonZonal Geranium (Pelargonium x hortorum)

Most geraniums are easy keepers, but the zonal ones are the best survivors. They have round leaves, usually with concentric stripes of colors around the edges. And if they are given a combination of cool temperatures and strong sunlight, they will repeatedly produce large flower clusters. The most important tool for nurturing them is a pair of shears; geraniums tend to become gangly even when conditions are perfect, and they can get extremely gangly if light is scarce. Frequent cutting back will keep them bushy and healthy.

African Violet (Saintpaulia)

800px-SaintpauliaMy Mom’s favorite, today’s African violets are the most popular of all flowering houseplants. They trace their heritage to several species collected in East Africa in the late 19th century, but their appearance today derives from years of intensive hybridization among only a few of the species. The original blue and purple African violets are still happily blooming, but most have yielded the spotlight to new color tones. Modern violets also appear in white (the touchiest sort to grow), all shades of pink, burgundy, and even crimson. Generally, African violets need abundant filtered light. In summer, however, move plants away from any direct sun to where they will receive less intense, indirect light only. Violets like the same comfort level you do: average room temperatures or a little warmer in the day and a few degrees cooler at night. Keep the humidity high around your plants by placing them on a humidity tray, but never allow them to sit in water or the plant will die from fungal rot. Whenever the top half-inch of soil feels dry to the touch, add enough water to make it evenly moist. There are many, many websites dedicated to the care and nurturing of African violets.

Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)

Hasn’t everyone tried to grow a big, beautiful, flowering Peace Lily received as a gift? 3108042900_f3b4cb17cc_zThe Peace Lily tops the list of plants that provides beautiful foliage and flowers AND is easy to grow. The plant thrives indoors and blooms reliably with minimal attention. White flowers with a stiff yellow center (similar to those of a calla lily) appear nearly continuously amid the large, dark green, oval leaves. The plant needs low to medium light (never direct sun) and average indoor conditions. Its tropical foliage looks best, however, if you raise the humidity around it by setting it on a humidity tray. Moisten the soil evenly when the top inch feels dry to the touch; reduce watering when room temperatures fall below 70ºF, and never expose a plant to conditions below 55ºF.

Why should you let Mother Nature dictate when you can enjoy gardening? There are hundreds of lovely houseplants that need care and love, and are currently sitting at your local nursery or garden center waiting for you!